Jolien Veldwijk – Peacebuilding Initiatives Rotating Header Image

South Sudan

With Pain, Hope and Patience

After my last post ages ago I wanted to write an entry called ‘The Horrors of Juba’. At the end of my last trip I tried to track down 11-year old girls who have become sex workers. And I was successful. I found a few of them in a massive compound with iron sheet barracks where women prostitute themselves in rooms not bigger than 3 m2. There are rooms where pornographic movies are being filmed. Sex films with children in the leading roles.

But I couldn’t write about it. I couldn’t find words to describe the living circumstances of the hundreds of women and girls who sell their bodies to men in this awful place. Men of all kinds. There were so many different kinds of women. From Uganda, from Kenya, women who were child soldiers during the war, women who’ve lost everyone and everything, and of course the young girls who try to flee from their lives on the street.

But you will soon be able to read about these women and young girls as I am currently working as a consultant on a new project focused on Southern Sudanese women. The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation has commissioned an exciting new book aimed at documenting the lives of different groups of women in South Sudan. It is hoped that this book, under the draft title ‘With Pain, Hope and Patience: The lives of women in South Sudan’, will contribute to a documentation of South Sudan’s past while at the same time voicing women’s hopes for the future. The need for this book is propelled by the recognition that the truth of Sudan’s past must be preserved, documented and made accessible in order to pave the way for its future.

Nine broad categories of women have been identified for this book, each of which will be explored in one detailed chapter. By integrating new data from in-depth interviews with local women, authors are tasked to tell the stories of these categories of South Sudanese women within the current socio-economic and political context of South Sudan.

I am one of these authors. I will be writing two chapters for this book: one on Mothers and one on Sex Workers. I am currently conducting research in Rumbek, Juba and hopefully amongst the Internally Displaced (Southerners who live in the North) in Khartoum early September.

With Pain, Hope and Patience will most likely be published at the end of the year. Until then, I will keep you updated as well, but it looks like it is going to be an amazing book to read, as my co-authors are impressive women!

Spectacular arrival and an even more spectacular stay in Juba

Finally a message from dry and extremely hot Juba! Tomorrow we will already be moving on to Rumbek (by bus if you can believe it!), and even though we’ve only been in Juba for a short while, so much has happened!

On the plane from Kampala and Juba I recognized a few important South Sudanese Members of Parliament and, more importantly ;), they recognized me as well!! It didn’t get us through the VIP entrance of Juba airport, but at least their luggage came through the same whole in the wall…

Even though my travel companion and I did not have the same welcoming committee as the MPS waiting for us when we got off the airport, we were met by the driver of my friends, who took us to the Central Pub in Juba where we had lunch with my friends. It’s been great to see them working in Juba and discovering the traditional food at the little street corner restaurants, as well as the expat bars in town!

We are currently staying in remodeled shipping containers on a compound relatively close to everything! Juba is such a ‘white’ city, with many internationals, that everything is very expensive. Hotels easily cost $100/$150 per night, and therefore we are extremely happy in our containers, even if the toilet has difficulty flushing, the shower water can be brown, and we sweat out of our beds at night.

Mentioning my ‘old’ friends earlier, my new friend Davey has also been extremely lovely and helpful! He took us to the market to get tickets for our bus ride to Rumbek (we are leaving tomorrow) and treated us to the most delicious Sudanese food in a proper Sudanese restaurant. When we had coffee with him and his friend John Garang who works for South Sudanese TV, they alerted us to the variety of government officials in the room and shared some insight information that made my skin crawl! I will save that for later…

I had an interesting meeting at Miraya FM, the greatest radio station for South Sudan (from the UN), run by a woman who also worked as a photographer in Afghanistan. The meeting went really well and if I can find the right kind of cooperation in Rumbek, some of my documentaries may be aired on Miraya FM!

Tomorrow we will leave by bus for Rumbek! We’ll be travelling through two states of South Sudan, Central Equatoria and the state of Lakes. It will be a hell of a ride, maybe not entirely safe and most likely hot and sweaty, but definitely a beautiful way of exploring and discovering the country!

Local Peacebuilding Initiatives in South Sudan

In less than 36 hours I will be leaving for South Sudan, although I will spend some time in Uganda first in order to get a visa.

In Sudan, I will be visiting an organic farm project set up by Women for Women International for women victims of war. The aim of this programme is to empower women to rebuild their lives after they’ve gone through so much throughout the war. I will interview these women and document their life stories and find out how their involvement in the programme helps them to rebuild the lives they’ve lost and how they are making a different to their families and communities. We would like you to provide detailed case study information on 2 women who are WfWI programme participants, who have come to us as victims of war, and through their involvement in the programme are rebuilding their lives, and making a difference to their families and, ideally their communities.

This voluntary project is related to the Join Me on the Bridge Campaign, a campaign to celebrate International Women’s Day and bring peace to the nation. I will write more about this campaign later.

I will try to write various blogs about my experiences in Uganda and Sudan, because as you can imagine, my trip will be very adventurous and exciting! I hope you will be interested in following me on this journey and celebrate the power of women and peace with me!